MILLER: Another day, another lineup change for UND men's hockey
GRAND FORKS—The University of North Dakota men's hockey team played its 24th game of the season Saturday night, Jan. 13, in a 2-2 tie with Bemidji State at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
And for the 24th consecutive time, Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry had to use a different lineup.
On Saturday, it was forwards Trevor Olson and Rhett Gardner and defenseman Andrew Peski missing action with injuries.
Berry admitted it's a little frustrating. He's used more than 40 different forward groupings and at least 10 different defensive pairings.
Notably against the Beavers, Berry had to change up his top line of Gardner, Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich—a trio that had generated so much production of late.
"Yeah, absolutely," Berry said. "When you think of the Gardner line and how they've been playing and leading by example on and off the ice ... they get things going, then Rhett's not in the lineup tonight and you've got to change again and that changes all the lines."
The Fighting Hawks are entering the time of year when coaches like to develop line chemistry and a sense of normalcy, but Berry sees a silver lining in his juggling act.
"It is what it is," he said. "What'll happen is guys get experience now. They're getting reps and hopefully this experience pays off at the end of the year."
UND's players also saw the positives, with defenseman Christian Wolanin saying it was a blessing in disguise.
"In the end, you don't know what happens in the playoffs when things get chippy and who'll go down," Wolanin said. "You have to be ready to throw in whatever you have available."
Nick Jones, who was inserted into the top line with Gardner out, echoed the forward-thinking outlook of Wolanin when it comes to the revolving lineup.
"At the end of the year, you might not have everyone you normally have," Jones said. "We have an opportunity to get everyone ready for the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to win a national championship. We can draw on these experiences in the end. We can use that to our advantage."
UND's depth through 24 games has been tested including in net where Cam Johnson has missed eight games this year with an injury.
"I go back to the beginning of the year when we were talking about how much depth we have," Johnson said. "Guys out of the lineup are good players but we have guys that have stepped in and done a good job.
"We have a lot of talented players this year. We don't have soft spots. Guys can fill in and we're all right."